The first covenant had regulations—lots, as well as the amazing earthly sanctuary, says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, (chapter 9, verses 1 to 5). The spectacular tent with its out-of-this world design, specially crafted furniture, consecrated unrefrigerated food, the Most Holy Place, incense, the gold covered covenant box, not to mention the hundreds of rules governing the ceremonial work of the priests.
So, what are the regulations of the New Covenant? The setting up of numerous different kind of earthly sanctuaries called “churches”? A worldwide institution “the Church”? Pulpits, pews and altars? Mystical foods? A new order of priesthood? Transcendent sacrifices? Better smelling incense? A priestcraft elite? Excited audiences and religious entertainment?
None of the above. Definitely. Absolutely not. Full stop.
But as you know, tragically, all too soon, men set up such things which were not even a shadow of the real. These survive today after a long history of slowly evolving forms: Catholicism, Anglicanism, sacramentalism, mysticism, countless other isms, formality, liturgy, clergy driven—old, superseded models but without any of the glory of God, no cherubim, no stone tablets written with the finger of God, no budding rod, and no true sacrifice for our atonement, and without any mandate whatsoever from the Lord of Hosts for the shabby substitutes men instituted. Empty. God has left this kind of house.
Under the Old Covenant, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance, as it says in Heb 9:6-7.
But today in so many earthly temples, earthly priests regularly enter their sanctuaries to carry on their ministry and without any Aaronic authority, imagining they re-crucify the Lord of glory on some pathetic copy of an altar. In a mockery of the real, the true, they imagine wine is magically changed to blood by their mumbo-jumbo mantra instead of directing needy souls to see that Jesus has finished his work once for all and ensure the people of receive their inheritance, now.
In the old Jewish order, sins committed in ignorance were atoned—wonderful grace assuring worshippers that it did not depend on them dotting every ‘i’. But the so-called sacrifice of the mass keeps people in perpetual dependence on a mediatorial priesthood, for they must come continually to maintain the believed benefits of forgiveness.
But what can really cleanse from sin? And what about sin not done in ignorance–deliberate? What can cleanse my conscience? –nothing in the old covenant arrangement, glorious though it is. A better deal awaited God’s people, now come in the Christ and his offering for us.
So again you may ask, what are the regulations of the New Covenant?
Well there are none. There are patterns to guide us and above all the example of the Lord Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. The habits, practices and attitudes he demonstrated to his little band of followers are there for us to practice towards one another : love, forgiveness, joy, patience, service, cooperation, togetherness, thanksgiving. Here we are not remotely on the same planet as Law, rules and regulations.
Jesus has gone from us to a place where he is constantly at work for us.
And there is the glorious gift of his Spirit! In his place he sends the Holy Spirit! People in the NT era knew they had received the Spirit from Jesus. They knew because they could abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:26). They knew because they were members of a functioning body all joined together, each with manifestations of the Holy Spirit to encourage one another. They knew because the Word of God flowed from their hearts and through their lips. They were bold, courageous.
Yes. There is also the eternal Word of God by which we continually hear His voice. What marvellous resources!
Surely we have such abundance in this great design plan that Jesus has inaugurated! What need then do we have of formalised institutions and commercialised religion? Of priestcraft and liturgical magic?
To hang on to such substitutions instead of God’s creative, revealed ways is to dishonour Him. To hear and put into practice His ways is to honour Him, to hallow His name.